It’s a New Day, and a New Week

An inspirational quote to start the new week –

And while you read, you might also enjoy this original, hope-filled piano composition from a while ago…

Here’s the quote – very simple, but have a good think about each sentence before skipping ahead…

The writer talks about a “New Day”, but at the start of the week perhaps we can apply it to the “New Week” with even more benefit!

“Every morning means a fresh start on things.
If yesterday was trying and exhausting, today is a given opportunity to do something different.
If yesterday was full of triumph and satisfaction, today is a free chance to go further.
All too often we wake up, think of our schedules, and assume that we must act according to the same dull script. We need not.
If we find what is unique to each day, we will have freshness and the greatest fulfillment possible.”

Deng Ming-Dao,  365 Tao Daily Meditations (1992, Harper Collins)

Have a unique and wonderful day – and week ahead!


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Piazzolla: finding his unique voice

The French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) notably taught several of the most distinguished musicians of the 20th century, including Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass and Astor Piazzolla.

Nadia_Boulanger_1925

Recalling the first introduction to Boulanger, the Argentine musician Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) wrote:

“…When I met her, I showed her my kilos of symphonies and sonatas. She started to read them and suddenly came out with a horrible sentence: “It’s very well written” … After a long while she said: “Here you are like Stravinsky, like Bartók, like Ravel, but you know what happens? I can’t find Piazzolla in this.”

And she began to investigate my private life: what I did, what I did and did not play, if I was single, married or living with someone, she was like an FBI agent! And I was very ashamed to tell her I was a tango musician. She kept asking: “You say you are not a pianist. What instrument do you play then?” And I didn’t want to tell her that I was a bandoneón player…

Finally, I confessed and she asked me to play some bars of a tango of my own. She suddenly opened her eyes, took my hand and told me:  “You idiot, that’s Piazzolla!” And I took all the music I composed, ten years of my life, and sent it to hell in two seconds…”

Piazzolla is, today, remembered as one of the great icons of 20th century music – the creator of a new style called tango nuevo which drew on jazz, fusion and classical influences as well as the traditions of the Argentinian tango that he grew up playing.

At his death in 1992 Piazzolla had composed more than 3,000 works, and his music has been embraced the world over. And as well as his many recordings and film scores, classical musicians such as Martha Argerich have brought his music into the ongoing classical concert repertoire.

And though his music has met with a certain resistance from all quarters, including most vociferously in his own homeland during his lifetime, Piazzolla’s individual musical voice has spoken, and has become part of our heritage.

The advice of teacher Nadia Boulanger set Astor Piazzolla on a course that would allow him to be creative by being himself, and developing his unique personal expression.


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Dustin Hoffman’s Dream

Ever wished you could be one of the top Hollywood movie stars of your generation? 

It turns out that Dustin Hoffman had a different dream, as he relates in an interview with the Radio Times magazine (5-11 March 2016):

“I always wanted to be a piano player.
I grew up studying piano, particularly jazz.
I just didn’t have the talent.

I had the desire. I had the feeling for it – and I still have it – but I didn’t have a very good ear.
I couldn’t just sit down and play something if you whistled it, like many musicians can.
I could not read regular classical music quickly; it was all laborious for me.

I still feel I missed my calling in life.
If God said today, “You will be what you always wanted to be, starting right now, and that is a really good jazz pianist”, I’d quit everything and be quite happy.”

This collection of thoughts and statements suggests to me many ways in which we use language quite loosely.

What, for example, is “a piano player” or for that matter “a really good jazz pianist”? Are these labels limited to those who can earn a living as a performer? At what stage in one’s development as a pianist is one allowed to use the term?

And then there is the question of “talent”. If ever there was a word that is used to convey so much, but actually conveys so little, “talent” is surely a contender!

Why did Dustin Hoffman believe that he “didn’t have the talent”? Did a teacher or parent take him to one side and gently break the news? Did he fail an exam or lose a competition? Or did he simply submit to the worst insults leveled at him by his own inner critic?

The answers to these questions are perhaps not for the knowing, but it is interesting that Dustin Hoffman goes on to talk about the ideas contained in Kung Fu Panda 3, the latest movie he is involved with.

Hoffman concludes the interview with this thought:

“One of the themes of Kung Fu Panda 3 is that they use the word “Chi”, in other words finding your inner self; the purpose of life is to find your inner self. Your essence.
And I think you spend a lifetime doing that.”

For me, being a pianist is a real part of my “inner self”, regardless of whether I have a successful concert career or not. And I suspect many readers will identify with piano playing in the same way – as a core part of our identity and means of self-expression.

If so, do not listen to your inner critic, to the teacher who puts you down, to the competition judge who overlooks you, or to the audition board that pass you over.

Be sure to pursue your dream, because the rest is just noise.


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Social Media and Feelings of Inadequacy

Following on from her well-received post “Am I Really Good Enough“, guest author Frances Wilson turns her focus to the impact that social media can have on our view of ourselves…

Continue reading Social Media and Feelings of Inadequacy

Am I Really Good Enough?

Guest author Frances Wilson considers a question we all ask ourselves from time to time, sometimes more frequently than we should…

Continue reading Am I Really Good Enough?

Is Mindfulness relevant to piano playing?

Guest post by Doug Hanvey

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Doug Hanvey from Portland Oregon as a guest author on Pianodao. Doug is a highly qualified and experienced educationalist and teacher of both piano pedagogy and mindfulness.

Here he discusses the link between the two…


Continue reading Is Mindfulness relevant to piano playing?

Paying attention to the small things

“You may be capable of great things,
But life consists of small things.”

Deng Ming Dao is a popular contemporary writer whose meditation books have a Daoist emphasis – I’ve quoted from him before, and no doubt will again as he is a source of tremendous wisdom.

I highly recommend all his books, and the best-selling ‘365 Tao’ is a great place to start, offering a thought a day throughout the year.

Today’s thought is, I think, of particular relevance to musicians. Here’s an extract, which I hope you will enjoy reflecting on:

“Big things seldom come along.
One should know the small as well as the big.

We may all yearn to make lasting achievements and to be heroes, but life seldom affords us the opportunities to do so. Most of our days consist of small things – the uneventful meditations, the ordinary cooking of meals, the banal trips to work, the quiet scratching in the garden – and it is from these small things that the larger events of our lives are composed.

The master musician’s best composition is but one work in a sea of musical tones. If we want to be successful, it is the small things that we should pay attention to.

We must not fall in the trap of waiting so long for the big things that we let numerous small chances slip right by us. People who do this are forever waiting for life to be perfect. They complain that fate is against them, that the world does not recognise their greatness. If they would lower their sights, they would see all the beautiful opportunities waiting at their feet. If they would humble themselves enough to bend down, they could scoop untold treasures up into their hands.”


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Healing with music

Guest author Simon Reich shares an inspiring personal testimony to the power of music.

With war in Syria, daily muggings, deadlock in the Middle East, domestic violence and escalating racial tensions, we are in desperate need of some good news stories.

Being a creative musician, you may not realize it, but you hold the key to giving the world some peace and inspiration.

Continue reading Healing with music

Feeling Impatient?

One thing is certain – everything changes. But sometimes things can take longer than we hoped for, in stark contrast to the general pace of our lives today. Is it any wonder that we often feel impatient?

Perhaps there are obstacles that won’t shift from your pathway. Wounds that won’t heal…

… or simply a favourite piece of music that you would love to be able to play on the piano, but which somehow seems far out of your reach.

As qigong master Kam Chuen Lam explains, some things simply take time – and are all the better for it!

“All authentic growth takes time. So does healing and the process of deep strengthening. It is like giving birth.

In the more than thirty years that I have been teaching and treating people in the West, I have always had to tell people that nature takes time to form, nourish and give birth to new life.

I tell my students, ‘You can’t make a plant grow by tugging on it every day. You simply put it in good soil, give it just enough water and light, and let it grow. If you do that it will grow naturally. That is its nature’.”

Master Kam Chuen Lam: The Qigong Workbook for Anxiety


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The Quiet Fields

The writer Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) gave us these much treasured words:

“Come away from the din.
Come away to the quiet fields,
over which the great sky stretches,
and where, between us and the stars,
there lies but silence;
and there, in the stillness
let us listen to the voice
that is speaking within us.”

Whether speaking of the Divine, or perhaps the voice of our own inner creative inspiration, these words represent a powerful call which we should and surely must heed on a regular basis.

For the school child, the busy professional or the highly active senior, the “Quiet Fields” could mean time spent at the piano.

For those of us whose work involves performing on or teaching the piano, the “Quiet Fields” are necessarily elsewhere.

But for all of us the imperative applies: we need time away from the daily grind to listen and to renew.


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