So How Did Carnegie Hall Go?

On stage

It went great! I actually enjoyed myself and I was happy with my performance. For me, this was as good as it gets!  Click here to hear recordings of my performance.

As regular readers may remember, the email telling me I was a winner of the 2013 Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition got lost, so I wasn’t able to perform on the Winners’ Concert in May 2013. After several conversations with the organizers of the event, we settled on my performing as a featured artist on another event in February 2014 called “The Artists of the Alexander and Buono Masterclass Series”.

While I was sorry to miss hearing the other winners, I was glad to have many months to prepare for the concert. I developed a practice routine, took a special course to decrease performance anxiety, and did many practice performances.

Each day I would begin my time at the piano by playing the pieces straight through for the video camera. No warmup, just sit down and go, exactly as I would have to do on stage. Then I would listen to the video while studying the score, and use my observations to direct my work during that session.

I arrived in New York five days before my concert. I had a reservation at 853 Rehearsal Studios and continued my practice regimen there every morning. In the afternoon I mostly found myself resting and catching up on work that had fallen through the cracks in California.

On the big day, the dress rehearsal was scheduled from 9 to 11. The Weill Recital Hall is stunning, and the 9 foot Steinway piano had a beautiful sound and was easy to play. I only got 5 minutes in the morning to try the instrument because there were 18 other performers. Fortunately I had visited the Steinway Gallery in Walnut Creek where the manager, Justin Leavitt, let me rehearse my music for an hour or so on a similar Model D Steinway. So I was not thrown off by the big increase in bass sound; instead I could use it to make the music more beautiful. My sister, Jenny Peters, besides being a ‘Uke Wiz’ is also a pianist. She had flown in from Chicago, and was a big help listening in the hall to help me adjust what I was doing on stage so that it projected well.

Jenny and Rebecca at sound check

After the rehearsal, we got some breakfast; then I practiced some more at the rehearsal studio. We returned to the hall around noon for a photo shoot. The concert began at 1:30 p.m. but I didn’t go onstage until about 3:45 p.m. I spent the time backstage mentally reviewing my pieces and doing centering exercises. Those two hours were pretty trying!

My first piece, the Rachmaninoff transcription of Kriesler’s ‘Liebesleid’ was the best performance I have given of that piece. Once I started playing, my inner mental voice would say, “This is the big time! Be careful! Don’t mess up!” which caused a burst of anxiety. Then I would remind myself to bring my mind back to the music and focus on what I was doing. The zooming in and out of a focused state went on for about the first two minutes of the Rachmaninoff, but gradually I felt more centered. I began to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, the gorgeous instrument, and the feeling of being comfortable with my ability to play the piece. After all, I had played it from beginning to end hundreds of times. Why worry now?

I’m done

When I finished the first piece, someone in the balcony shouted ‘Brava!’ and everyone burst into applause. The enthusiastic feedback gave me a boost of happiness which translated into a little more relaxation and enjoyment. In the ‘Valse Brilliante’ by Manna Zucca, I was able to be more playful and trust my preparation to see me through. There was a nice response from the audience at the end, which made me happy. But most of all, I was thrilled to be finished with a period of intense work. Time to relax!

View from the restaurant

After the concert I went out to dinner with friends and family. It was a perfect New York evening with great food, live jazz and views.

Web surfing yields Carnegie Hall recital: May 13th

While cruising around the web trying to figure out how to promote my classical music online, I found the website for the Bradshaw and Buono 2013 International Piano Competition. I submitted a 25 minute recording on April 22 culled from past performances and my American Retrospective CD . Winners were to be notified May 1 and scheduled to play in the Big Apple on May 19th. When I had heard nothing by the evening of May 2, I spent several days in a cloud of disappointment, and finally was able to shrug my shoulders and move on.

Come May 13th I received an irate email from the contest organizer saying “Where is your bio and program information for Carnegie Hall!?” After searching my email trash and archives, I phoned him immediately. Cutting to the punch line: the notification email had been sent, but lost in cyberspace. I would not play on Sunday’s piano program, but would be invited to play on another winner’s event in the 2013-2014 season.

I spent several days in a daze, and gradually the reality has sunk in. After thirty years of work, I will be entering the elite group of musicians who can say they have played in Carnegie Hall. I feel a new sense of self assurance and find myself more willing to speak my mind and put myself forward.

Now I am back online to connect with family and friends and let them know the big news. I am reinventing my marketing to do more online and hopefully reach a broader audience for my music.

The day before my world was rocked: May 12, 2013

For the last 12 days I have been intensely focused on the latest installment of my lifelong saga:  trying to figure out how to be a pianist, a creative soul, with time for deep work, and still be able to be financially secure. Everything took a much darker turn after my cancer diagnosis in August 2006. But that will be the subject of future posts.

The most recent chapter began May 2.  May 1 was the date that the winners of the Alexander and Buono International Piano Competition were notified.  I had felt such certainty that I would be chosen. The inner intuitive voice which sometimes answers my questions had been ADAMANT that I would be chosen, that I should send in my recording, that I should spend $150 on once again putting myself out there.  By 10 p.m. on the first, I had checked the website twice– did it mention anything about whether they would call or email?  Would they let those not chosen know in some way at a later date?  No information on these points.

May 2 and 3 were very sad days. I felt disappointed that my inner voice had misled me, but relieved, in a way, that I wouldn’t figure out how to get to New York on short notice with a limited budget, and get my repertoire and my nerves in shape post haste.

By May 4 I had convinced myself that it was all for the best. Now I could stop worrying finding time to practice piano again, or memorizing music,  or how to pay for time to think.  I could focus all of my energy on trying to develop a successful internet business.

So over the next eight days, I read extensively about ebook publishing;  spent 3 days researching Amazon ebook sales standings sorted by topic area to try to discover a profitable niche in which to launch my first ebook; read several books about ebook promotion; concluded that I should launch a blog BEFORE writing an ebook;  began the blog process by transferring domain names to a new host; read up a lot on WordPress and WordPress themes;  tried installing one theme; gave up, switched themes;  spent three days customizing another free theme with the help of some great YouTube videos.  Ok, if you followed all that, here’s what happened next.  I became aware( or perhaps just neurotic) that my adult student attendance rate was dropping and that I hadn’t had a new student sign up for 4-5 months.  Why would that be?  Then I put 2 and 4 together and got even more anxious – my piano studio website had dropped off the front page of the google results for “piano lessons= Berkeley”.   My conclusion was that I should start trying to apply some of what I was reading about search engine optimization to my piano studio website, you know, get some new students in the door to make it easier to breathe while I pursued this entrepreneur-retirement saving thing.

Today, I signed up for a $97/month SEO copywriting tool that helps you analyze your website copy and make it more appealing to google.  It’s quite a complicated process – glad I went to U.C. Berkeley.  But to use the exciting new tool I had to upgrade my version of Word.  That was $120.  It took an hour or two to download all these things and then install Word.  Opened up Word – could NOT find how to access the $97 service.  Argh.  So, since it was available with a web based interface, I decided to try copying and pasting my text from my teaching website to the web based analyzer.  Then I spent another hour or two trying to figure out its advice and implement it.  Not an easy task.

Finally I gave up.  My ‘little grey cells’, to paraphrase Agatha Christie’s detective Poirot, were tied into knots.  Time to back off and take care of logistics like vacuuming and laundry.

Just another day in the life……