Today I shall respond to a question I get asked very frequently after concerts: “Is being a concert pianist lonely?”. The short answer is yes, it is indeed a lonely job.
The reality of our daily life couldn’t be further from the glamorous way it seems when we are flourishing on stage, taking in the joy and love being given to us by audiences - every moment leading to this has been an arduous path up the hill, technically alone but actually in the company of the relationship we have with our instrument and the music. We spend hours on end at the piano everyday, hours on one page from a piece of music and sometimes even hours on a single bar. The kind of practise required is not just mental practise but also exhausting physical practise because one of the most vital elements to any musician or athlete’s performance is muscle memory. When your finger, arm, back, neck (legs and feet for pedals!) muscles have memorised the movements and journeys required to play a work, through endless repetitive practise, only then can you have much more freedom musically to express your emotions exactly how you want to, as your muscles move independently. Each instrument comes with their own struggles - one of the piano’s difficulties (among many) being that it is the instrument that has the most notes to learn. This therefore doubles and triples the hours we spend with our instrument, physically alone. However this brings me back to my point earlier about the relationship we have between our instrument and the music. This bond is the only reasons we endure the physical and mental strains that practising and performing can bring us, the sheer love and joy that the music (or end result!) gives us. The life of a concert pianist or artist is certainly not for everyone but those who chose this path should be prepared for that breaking point - a small example - when you have spent hours and hours honing a passage, then you take a break, come back to it and find that it hasn’t improved at all (sometimes it’s even worse than when you started!), that is a defining moment, you either push through or you give up. These are decisions you make by yourself and yes, it takes incredible mental strength and drive, but when one of those breaking points come (believe me they will) and you ask yourself why am I torturing myself? The answer will always be “Ah, yes, it’s because of the LOVE I have for the MUSIC!”.
So the long answer to the question is no, I am not alone in my practise room, whilst I’m travelling or when I’m on stage, I am always in the loving embrace of the music.