Changing the Classical Music Landscape
|June 21, 2012||Posted by admin under Blog||
I’m convinced that Tuesday evening’s performance by Valentina Lisitsa at the Royal Albert Hall marked a turning point for classical pianists. Anyone who was lucky enough to be there or to tune in to the live broadcast (you can still watch it here) knows how special this recital was.
Valentina is a powerful pianist, technically and musically. Any musician who’s followed her online or has tuned into her marathon practice sessions can’t help but feel inspired and happy to see how her hard work has paid off. Every non-musician friend to whom I’ve introduced her YouTube videos has been in awe even if they’ve never listened to classical music in their life.
But in addition to her pianistic skills, Valentina also has a remarkable ability to connect with her audience. Before she even sat down at the piano, she took the microphone, addressed the crowd and singled out one person to thank – man named Louis who encouraged her when she was at a low point. He urged her to continue posting her YouTube videos, open a MySpace account, and use social media to the fullest – advice that led to about 180 videos and over 50 million hits.
During intermission, there was a pre-recorded video where Valentina answered questions that were sent to her online. One person asked how she chooses her repertoire. She said she only plays pieces she likes. Another wanted to know about her teachers. Her response: “I study with dead people.” Then she spoke about the recordings and videos from the “Golden Age of Piano” and how she draws inspiration for her favorites, Backhaus, Hoffman and Rachmaninoff. She also spoke about how the Internet was a “democratic” tool for people to hear classical music. She engages music lovers from all over the world by writing a description of her YouTube pieces and then answering questions in the comments below. She’s also active on Twitter. She’s friendly!
Valentina Lisitsa is the first classical pianist to build such a huge fanbase much like indie artist, Amanda Palmer did with her Kickstarter, or (another Ukranian pianist) Viktoriya Yermolyeva (vkgoeswild) is doing with her arrangements of metal and pop.
So look out piano teachers! Our students are online watching, following, and learning. They’re getting fired up and we teachers have to be ready and willing to loosen the reins. We can encourage them to “study with dead people” on the side, open up that challenging piece, record that pop song arrangement, post a YouTube video and play the music they want to play. Because we all know they’re going to want to be just like that YouTube pianist.