Friday, November 6, 2009

Power of the piano

I was quite touched about this story involving Andre Watts from ArtsJournal:

When Doug McLennan asked me to write this blog, he told me that the most
successful ones connect the writing to the experiences the blogger has in daily
life. I write about building arts communities, and for several weeks I've been
thinking that the following story should be told. It certainly grows out of real
life, and the lives involved are close to me and involve a musician whose
artistry is legendary.
Last April my brother, Jim, copied an e mail he had
sent to the great pianist, Andre Watts. Since it says everything better than I
possibly could, I'll just let the letter tell the story:
Dear Mr. Watts,
For years our family has admired you, the gift of musical talent you have
been given, and the obvious discipline you have followed to develop and maintain
your skills. Your music has touched the hearts of many people, but you have
touched the hearts and lives of our family in a special way.
Our family is
deeply indebted to you because of an episode of Mr. Rogers you taped. I have a
daughter (Jamie) who is 29 years old and is severely disabled and profoundly
retarded. She has had many challenges; among them was the desire to eat. For
years, Jamie did not want to eat and we struggled at every mealtime to feed her.
Early on, we discovered that music either distracted her or stimulated her and
so we began playing music as she would eat her food.

Take a moment out to read the entire letter and story here. I've had the good fortune to hear Watts play several times, and remember as a teenager seeing his 25th anniversary concert on tv. Just a few years ago I saw Andre play with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the summer, Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto on the same program as Penderecki's Second Symphony, with the composer himself conducting. While Charles Dutoit was leading the rest of the program, it was interesting to see Watts and Penderecki interact during the rehearsal.
Have you been moved by a performer or performance? Got a story to share about Watts or classical music? Pass it along in the comments!
And don't forget about the Piano Sunday afternoon at 5pm on KPAC & KTXI!

- Afternoon host John Clare

1 comment:

James Baker said...

Back in the late 1970s Andre Watts was a regular guest here in San Antonio. I have fond memories of playing with him, but also recall that he was the only one I remember who would make himself available for informal chamber music sessions with members of the orchestra. I was not high enough in the pecking order to actually participate in any of these sessions, but I recall vividly the buzz of anticipation several days before Andre Watts would arrive.

The other guest artist who impressed me with his giving was the violinist Henryk Szeryng. Maestro Szeryng would dominate the rehearsal of his concerto, coaching the orchestra, especially the string players, on how to execute his musical ideas. It was almost like sitting in a master class. I also played with Szeryng in Mexico and found that he practiced this same conduct there except, of course, it was all fluent Spanish. After all, Mexico was Szeryng's home for much of his distinguished lifetime.