Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Needless Stresses


Take a moment to watch this 59 second video. It will put your life into perspective. I recently saw this  and it was completely humbling. "Busy" and "stressed" has become a word that we associate with normal, everyday living. We have so much stuff in our lives, whether it be material possessions, extracurricular activities, or vain ambitions, that we forget to focus on things of true worth. We commonly think of ourselves as lazy or unproductive if we aren't filling our day with a ridiculous amount of activities that keep us busy and/or stressed. There's often guilt associated with relaxation or satisfaction with life.

I recently finished a jam-packed month of performances. I know some touring concert pianists might laugh at me when I say it was jam-packed, because I only had three events. However, I played a brand new concerto - the Rachmaninoff 2nd Concerto - that I had finished memorizing only a few weeks before, followed by a concert program at BYU-Idaho in which I played an extra 45 mins of repertoire along with the Rach 2 (where my amazing wife, Dr. Lindsey Wright, who graduated a few weeks previous to that with her doctorate accompanied me on second piano), then the following weekend I competed in the Washington International Piano Competition with yet another hour of completely different repertoire. We drove from Michigan to Utah, then to Idaho, then to Washington D.C., then back to Michigan totaling over 60 hours of driving. Balancing three different programs, especially when the concerto was brand new, was a big task for me. It challenged me to focus with fierce intensity, and in the end, all three events turned out well and all of the work was worth it.

Upon returning home, I was excited that I had two weeks to "relax". I started working on some new repertoire that I've been wanting to learn, along with teaching my students on Skype. I've also been wanting to start a new video series for over six months, and just haven't found the time to do it with all of the concerts I've been working toward. So, my wife and I started working on a logo, tailoring my website to get ready for the new video series, started gathering the necessary equipment to film the videos in a professional way, and started researching how to edit the videos efficiently and effectively. I found that my practice time lessened slightly, and I immediately felt stressed about that. I told Lindsey, "I have another concert coming up in two weeks, and I haven't finished learning both new √Čtudes. I am doing terribly. How could I be so unproductive?" She looked at me and said, "Are you kidding me? What have we been doing all day, every day? Working out this new video series, practicing, and teaching."

It made me think of the video above. We have so many modern conveniences, so much technology, and endless opportunities to be stressed out. The part of the video that really makes you feel spoiled to live in America, even if you live in a small house, is, "I hate it when my house is so big, that I need two wireless routers." What a terrible problem that must be, especially when many people in the world struggle to find fresh drinking water each day. What a terrible problem I faced, not finishing my two Etudes that I'll be competing with sometime next year when countless children went hungry that same day I was practicing. How tough our lives are when we hit every red light in our air-conditioned car, on beautiful paved roads, on our way to work, where we "don't get paid enough" to buy every new gadget that our neighbors have, to live in a bigger house, to own a boat, or to summer in the Hamptons every year (which, I have "summered" in the Hamptons for a piano festival, and although it's incredibly nice, you find people who are perhaps more dissatisfied with life than you are, whose net worth is tens of millions of dollars).

I want to end this post with the most touching email I've ever received from my YouTube series. Arson is an amazing student who I've communicated with a few times since he first wrote to me last December.

Hi, I hope you are well.
I am Arson. I am 14 years old. I live in a place that music was banned by the taliban and has been in war from the last 40 years, Afghanistan. But now thanks to Afghanistan National Institute of Music I am achieving my dream to become a pianist.
It has only been one and a half year since i have started to play the piano but I have always wanted to become a pianist. I never had hope I would ever see a piano but today i play the piano and i am one of the approximately 200 musicians in Afghanistan...
I am a very big fan of you. You are amazing! I watch your videos on youtube.
My question was about trills, I am suffering alot with them so i wanted to get some help. I am playing Mozart piano Sonota no.16 1st movement. i want to know how to make it beautiful....