I received an email a few months ago from a 30-something woman seeking homes in which some talented chamber musicians could perform. She found her way to me as we are both alums of the same hoary Cambridge, Mass., university. She came over to check out our piano and our living room to make sure that we’d be a suitable spot and we had a fun conversation. It turns out that she used to be a physician and is now a musician — fascinating. She liked that we have a patio off the living room where there could be finger food and drinks before the performance. Her effort is to help more people learn about the beauty of chamber music. We agreed that she’d schedule a performance at our house sometime in the spring. Can’t wait!
She subsequently contacted me to see if a young chamber musicians’ group could schedule a practice session at our home, and I said that of course they could.
Both of these sessions are opportunities to be of service, and I love that. Being of service feeds my Meaningful Tapa (more about that in a future post). Moreover, if you’ve ever experienced live music in your living room, you know how terrific an experience that truly is. It makes me think of royalty and their courtesans being entertained — what a luxury! In this case, I can be of service not only to the performers, but also to attendees of the Harvard Club of San Francisco “Salon” this spring; not only to the young chamber musicians who will practice here, but also to their mentor and friends who attend. These are indeed fine occasions to do for others, and also feed my love of beauty, as the music is very beautiful.
And then, an unexpected bonus arrived! I heard from the leader of the young chamber musicians organization that one of their stellar groups would be taking a Master Class from Jon Nakamatsu, and I was invited to attend. Nakamatsu won the coveted Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medal in 1997 and is one of the top pianists in the world. Needless to say, I accepted in about a picosecond. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a Master Class, let me illuminate that. The performers, in this case high school students playing the piano, cello, viola, and violin (aka, a piano quartet), play a piece, in this case the first movement of Gabriel Fauré’s 1st Piano Quartet. The crowd (probably 150 people) applauds like crazy because these four girls are stars. And then Nakamatsu, who has been pacing about with the musical score, thanks them and starts in on the class. He does this by asking them to play the first, say, half page again and then he starts dissecting it and tweaking it: slow the piano down here, quieter before this forte here, the viola needs to always play a little louder or the audience can’t hear them, etc., etc. Play it again. And again. Finally, Ah — that’s great. Now let’s move to this other passage. And so on. The musicians get guidance from a world class pianist (!) and the audience experiences the difference in how the music sounds as the girls implement Nakamatsu’s directions. And you can really, really hear the difference! Plus he tosses out a gem here and there: while telling the pianist that she’s glossing over an area and should pay more attention to each note, he says, “You’ve got to LOVE every note.” And, the guy has infectious energy. The hour absolutely flew by.
I guess you can tell this was quite an experience for me. And I picked up a bunch of pointers for my own Piano Tapa. And all because I was feeding my Meaningful Tapa by agreeing to be of service.
It’s amazing how the Tapas magically intertwine themselves, creating long, shiny braids of fulfilling life. When you’re just starting to build up your Tapas Life, you may only have a Tapa, or two. Or you may not even know that they’re Tapas, yet. Once you start having more of them, they start doing a surprising dance together, intersecting, overlapping, adding to each other. This is the music of a full life. Enjoy!
By the way, if you want to hear an inspiring speech by Nakamatsu (he’s also extremely well-spoken), check out the following YouTube link. It’s not just for pianists! Up to the 4:37 point, it’s all useful background and set-up. Starting at 4:38, it becomes very powerful.