Welcome to Kevi's Studio
Kitchener, Ontario, CANADA
My name is Kevin Mulholland, but you can call me Kevi.
Kitchener, Ontario, CANADA--May 2021
My name is Kevin Mulholland, but you can call me Kevi. Welcome to my Studio!
I was an entrant in the "International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs", set originally for January 2021 (this past January) in Paris. That is, before it was indefinitely postponed It was, due to the Covid-19 global pandemic.
I am not a professional pianist, as in, someone who earns their living by playing the piano. In fact, my most honest description now would be 'sidelined' Uber driver.
Do you remember the 'care-free' time before all of the Covid lockdowns started?
For me it was February 23, 2020. I was locked in the psych ward at Grand River hospital, with my right thumb chopped off. That's right.
I was drunk and restrained on an ambulance stretcher for uttering suicide threats. The end of my right thumb was severed by the closing stretcher mechanism as I was being loaded into the ambulance.
I was on that stretcher because I had threatened to kill myself, and meant it. So how does a middle-aged, alcoholic, suicidal, (thumb-less) sidelined Uber driver compete in an international piano competition 10 months later?
This is my story.
I was a child prodigy, but not one of those three-year-old wonder kids... we didn't even have a piano until I was eight years old.
I still remember the day it arrived. A light brown mahogany apartment-sized piano. It was just after my mother's father (my grandfather) died that she got it, in honour him. My mother was born and raised in rural of South Africa, where my grandfather was not only the school principal, but also a fairly well-known church organist. I met him (apparently) when I was an infant, but have no memories of him. He was the 'music' in the family. My father was from Northern Ireland. He grew up in a very Catholic family in Belfast. He grew up during the most violent times in modern history. In fact, his family home was obliterated by an IRA bomb. The family made it out with just minutes to spare. It almost caused a family split when he proposed to my mother --a South African women, and, more importantly, a Protestant! Had she been from Ireland, I GUARANTEE the family split would have happened, just over that fact. Since my Mom was a lovely young lady from South Africa, however, they looked past her Protestantism, and came to love her as a daughter.
My parents were married in London in 1963. My father was an expert in this new fangled field called 'computers' (the big clunky ones...the personal computer, and definitely the smart phone were both a long way off). My father, a British citizen, first in the family to get a University degree and a newly married gentlemen was full of joy and excitement when he received his first assignment with the British government... in Lusaka Zambia, then part of the British Commonwealth. The government provided them with a beautiful home with a gardener and a maid! He had memberships to not one, but TWO country clubs. Not a bad way indeed to start a family, and that is were I was born. Lusaka, Zambia January 21, 1966. After his assignment ended in 1967, rather than return to London, the family decided to move to Toronto, Canada. And so I arrived in Canada in 1967 as a one-year-old. This was also, by the way, Canada's Centennial. The family bought a bungalow in the (at the time) small suburban commuter town... Mississauga.
Back to the piano. I was so excited over my new piano. My parents told me that my first piano lesson was in one week and also gave me my first piano book (John Thompson Piano Book 1). Between my excitement over the new piano, and not really listening as an eight-year-old, I mistakenly thought that I had to COMPLETE the first book before I could go to my lesson. So, I eagerly set about to the task. I learned the entire first book before my very first lesson across the street with the neighborhood piano teacher (Mrs. L). I was a little bit incredulous when my teacher asked me to open to the beginning of the book. I had learned it to the end and was waiting to see what the next book was. She didn't believe at first, that I had learned the whole book (despite no prior lesson). I indeed played through the whole book for her. While I no longer recall the conversation, I do believe she was well amazed.
Later that year, I easily passed my grade 1 Conservatory exam (with First Class Honours); skipped past grade 2; and then passed my grade 3 Conservatory exam (also with First Class Honours). That was all in my first year of piano.
My first great inspiration to play the piano came from an old record I found in my grandfather's things (yes... a record; google it). It was called “Sparky's Magic Piano”. I believe it was made some time in the 1940s. In the story, the hero (Sparky) is a young boy struggling to learn the piano. He is awoken from a nap by his magical piano that can now speak, and will give him the ability to play whatever he wants (for a while). You will have to listen for the rest... I'm not going to spoil the ending.
'Sparky's Magic Piano' on YouTube
(I highly recommend that you give it a listen sometime! I was riveted by this record in the early 70s. I thought that (maybe) my son might also be so riveted... alas, in this generation of video games and TikTok clips, a record of a boy with a magic piano just doesn't cut it, LOL! Check it out here).
Sparky's grand finale is Rachmaninoff’s "Prelude in C-sharp minor". I was ecstatic when I found the sheet music for it in a box of my grandfather's dusty old music. I was hooked! I started with the first two bars, and, even though the piece was way, way too hard for me, I wrote out each note name (in pencil) beside each note, since I couldn't read music very well yet. I practiced those two bars until I could play them perfectly. I thought to myself 'if I can do these two bars, maybe I can do the next two'. I repeated what I had done, again writing in the note names beside each note as it appeared on the staff. With this careful practice, I finally got to the end of the entire first line and, I could actually play it. So, I thought "if I can learn the first line, why can't I learn the second". So, I did. Since I now had two lines, I reasoned that since that was half of the first page, I was going to learn the rest of the first page the same way. Then it was 'If I could learn the whole FIRST page, why not the second?". This continued until I got to the very end of the piece. Remember, this was shortly after entering Royal Conservatory Grade III -- after skipping past Grade II. I couldn't WAIT for my next lesson! I couldn't wait to show my teacher, Mrs. L, what I could do. (Again, I do believe she was amazed).
At about that time, my elementary school (Whiteoaks Public School in Mississauga) was having their annual talent show. I was about nine years old at the time. Of course, when asked to participate, I was all in with my new Rachmaninoff! One of the things that stand out to me at this time was the fact that other grade 3 boys mocked me, saying ‘you're going to play the piano like one of the little girls’, (these were the 70s). When I performed it the next day, everyone in the entire gymnasium was on their feet applauding. I didn't even know what a standing ovation was. I remember thinking 'do I need to stand too?' I also remember it because the next day the boys who mocked me the day before couldn't even make eye contact with me!
I had won Gold Medal in several local piano competitions leading up to the summer of 1977. In fact, that summer I won the gold medal at the Toronto Kiwanis Music Festival. I played Prelude in C sharp minor, by Frederic Chopin. My dad was so proud of the gold medal that I had won.
My father, a friend of his, my best friend (a 10-year-old from up the street) and I decided to spend the day on a golf course on a late August Sunday afternoon. Just before we left for golf, though, my father asked me to play the piano for him. I was anxious to get to the golf course, and did not want to. However, I sighed, relaxed, and dutifully played. I played Chopin's Valse in C sharp minor. (This was the same piece that I had just won the Kiwanis gold medal for). After playing the piece, my father turned to me and said "that is the most beautifully I have ever heard you play it!" At that moment I did not know that I would also be the last time he would hear me play.
I won't go into details. Suffice it to say that 'having a few' before driving the car wasn't as much of a big deal in the 1970s. Our car rolled over several times. I was ejected. My friend and my father's friend both had multiple broken bones. I had severe lacerations on my both my legs and a serious crush injury to my left elbow. My father died instantly. He was just 44. I was 11.
Two years later my mother married Dan Moore. Dan was an American expat, working as a touring concert pianist and teaching piano on a kibbutz in Haifa, Israel. He held a Masters degree in piano performance from the Juilliard School of Music in New York city. He was on a 6-week furlough from his teaching duties, and wanted to return to his home in Independence, Missouri. He had been invited to play the piano for a popular television program that was based in Toronto. He decided to spend one night in Toronto before continuing home to Missouri. Upon arriving, the host informed him that he was booked to play for the entire week. (The host had met him while on a tour to Israel). He decided he could stay for an extra 'week' and perform for the broadcast.
It was through the host of that television program, the late David Mainse, that my mother and I were introduced to Dan. I had played the piano many times on David Mainse's program, starting in 1979. Again, for the sake of brevity, I will just say that Dan's 'week long' visit, somehow changed to 'two weeks'. This later also changed to 'do I really want to spend ALL four remaining weeks back in Missouri?". Then it changed to "well, I might as well just stay here in Canada" for my furlough.
This all changed when, after three months, he proposed to my mother. I was 13 years old when he and my mother wed. My younger sister Katherine and I gave away 'the bride'.
Dan was now my step father. Not only was he my stepfather, he was my mentor, my role model, an amazingly brilliant pianist and most importantly, my closest friend (at times). I still remember sitting in the audience (up in the balcony) as he performed the Schumann A minor concerto with the Kibbutz Symphony Orchestra in Haifa, Israel. Absolutely beautiful. I can hear it to this day. This was the last time I heard him perform with symphony orchestra. -- He also performed the 'Emperor' concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven with the China Philharmonic, in Hong Kong. I could attend that performance... broke :(
Dan remained in Canada with us for the next two years. I know that many families experience many adjustments to a new stepmother or stepfather. That was not the case with us. Dan blended so well, and so quickly into our family that it felt like he had been there all along. Now I had a REAL LIFE concert pianist living in the house... as my own personal piano teacher! What more could 14-year old me possibly ask for! Of course it was not all that easy in actuality. Sometimes Dan tended towards 'over' helping me, often turning a session for a piano lesson into an all day affair. I, of course, had my own problems at the time. I was a teenager. Except for the fact that I excelled at the piano, I was a pretty ordinary teenager in most other respects. You know.
Anyway, I was 14 years old when he and my mother wed. Interesting fact about Dan: One of his piano teachers at Juilliard was Rosina Lhevinne. She was married to the legendary pianist Josef Lhevinne, at the time, one of the last living students of Maestro Franz Liszt himself! Maestro Lhevinne was only the third person in history to win the gold medal from the Moscow Conservatory. The second person was Sergei Rachmaninoff, himself! The fourth ever gold medalist was the young Rosina Lhevinne (then Rosina Bessie). I believe she was ~60 years his junior when they wed. She herself was an old lady when she took on young Dan Moore in the 1960s. So there you have it: a pretty short line of instruction from the greatest piano master in history (Franz Liszt) to Josef to Rosina to Dan, and then to me! LOL.
When I was 14, we decided as a family to move to Israel. Not to the kibbutz in Haifa that Dan had been teaching at, but to Jerusalem, where Dan got a teaching job at the Rubin Academy of Music.
Before we left Canada, though, I decided to enter one more piano competition: the Canadian National Music Competition (I don't what it's called now), but it was the country wide music competition for Canada. So I entered the competition at age fourteen (in the 'up to age sixteen category', I believe).
The competition was in three parts: the first was a regional competition. The gold medalist for that round went on to compete for the province. I won the gold medal for that elimination, and went on to compete against the other provincial gold medalists. The final round that year was held in Edmonton, Alberta. The final was for all of the provincial gold medalists. I won Gold Medal, playing the Grieg piano concerto in A minor. Technically, at that moment I was considered the top youth pianist for the nation of Canada.
That was important, because that autumn we moved as a family to Jerusalem where I attended the Rubin Academy of Music High School. Since I had just won this gold medal, it made it relatively easy for me to get accepted. LOL. What music high school would turn down the top youth pianist in Canada?
I often ask people if they remember their first day of high school. I sure remember mine. While I was accepted into Reuben Academy school, I did not speak the language. All curriculum was taught in Hebrew. Instead of starting high school in the fall, I had to enroll in a Hebrew language School for the first three months of the school year. That meant that my first day of high school occurred in January. I arrived for my first day and was no more than 15 minutes into my first class when the principal of the school was at the door calling for me. Apparently, a small Shabbat-Shalom orchestra was scheduled to perform live on nationwide television (the country only had one tv station back then, as I recall). This was to usher in the Sabbath, but their regular pianist was ill. They needed the best pianist from the academy to fill in on very short notice. The principal, Oded, asked if I would do it. (I didn’t bother to ask how, after just 15 minutes at the school, I was the considered the 'best pianist' at the academy'). So I spent my 'first day of high-school' furiously learning the piano part of a ~30 page work for performance with a mini orchestra, and televised across the country for that same evening.
I immediately made a panicked call to my stepfather, Dan, who dropped everything and immediately came to help me learn the piano parts, which I was able to successfully do. As this was a performance to usher in the Sabbath in Israel I had to wear a kippah (a religious head covering -- BTW I'm not Jewish). That was MY first day of high school!
A funny corollary: no doubt as a result of my being seen across Israel ushering the Sabbath, I was selected later in the year to be the ceremonial ‘new immigrant’ to Israel, for a tree planting ceremony to usher in a major Jewish festival (I don't remember the name). I did this in between the top Five-Star General in the Israeli Army on one side, and the Prime Minister of Israel on the other (Menachem Begin). This was ceremony was attended by thousands of people (and televised nationwide). 14-year-old me always got a chuckle out of the fact I, while not being Jewish, managed to usher in not one, but TWO national Jewish festivals so far in my short time in the country. There was actually a third one, too, as I helped in the Feast of Tabernacles I think it was called. This was beside the President of Israel at the time (I don't remember his name). That's another story, though. It also helped that I composed and played the piano music in a newly released film about Israel called "Apples of Gold". This film (before, during and for a while after my time there) was shown as a feature film that year on many El Al flights into Israel. I recently found this old '78 (yes, a record again) from the movie. I wrote the piece when I was 12, and recorded the track for the movie at a recording studio in Toronto on my 13th birthday! (I'll have to see, one day, if I can find something to play it on LOL).
After one year, we returned to our home in Mississauga, Canada. After teaching piano myself for several years, Dan and I decided that I should enroll in the Piano Performance program at the University of Toronto. The old Edward Johnson building housed the faculty of music, or, as we jokingly referred to it: the FACTORY of music.
I completed two years of the four-year bachelor degree program, when, after (let's just say) some conflict with the Faculty heads, I went to a piano concert in Hamilton with Dan. There were three featured pianists that day. One lady (I don't remember her name) gave a particularly spectacular performance. Rather than be inspired (as I should have been), at that time it all seemed futile to me. I was at loggerheads with the faculty. This women obviously devoted her LIFE to playing the piano. Yet, here she sat at a table hawking CDs. Could I expect to do any better? Regardless of what the answer was (or might have been), I lost faith in MYSELF. The saying goes 'whether you believe you CAN or whether you believe you CAN'T, you are ALWAYS right! In this case, I was 'right'. I believed I couldn't. More importantly, I guess, when I lost belief in myself, I ended any chance of a piano career at the time.
Instead of following my stepfather's path, I reverted to my natural father's, and I became a computer instructor. For many years I taught classes in Mississauga in subjects such as 'Lotus 123', 'WordPerfect' and 'DOS' (ancient stuff). Later, I became a computer consultant, modifying computer systems and workstations for employees who had been injured, or had disabilities.
Over the next 20 years I worked in this capacity in the Toronto area. At that time I didn’t completely leave the piano, though. At age 29 I 'suddenly' realized my twenties were almost over, and I decided to enter one last piano competition... the "Chopin International Piano Competition" in Warsaw. For me, the big one. This competition, and all major piano competitions at the time had a maximum age of 29.
I felt very good about my chances, as Chopin was my boyhood hero, and I have absolutely loved playing the works of Frederic Chopin my entire life.
At the time, the first elimination was done by mailing in a single-take video tape. All subsequent eliminations were done in Warsaw, Poland.
I set about working on a fantastic program. I guess I spent so much time working on the repertoire, I forgot details such as, who was going to create the videotape. At the last minute, in a panic, I asked my neighbor with an old '80s camcorders if he would record me. He did, and I gave my performance, which, when I saw it on playback, was mortified. Seems his particular video camera took all the fortissimos and pianissimos and equalized them. The result was a very mono-dynamic performance-- no dynamic range, or the expression that I had put into the performance. Since it was last minute, I had to send it in, which I did. This of course was rejected. Heartbreakingly a few days after I had mailed it off to meet the deadline, the local TV station (that I had played piano on many times) asked if they could re-tape it for me. (Why I had not thought of this first, I have no idea). So, I re-recorded it, this time in a professional television studio. By then, though, it was too late, as the deadline had been missed.
Since I was about to turn 30, this was (I thought) my very last opportunity to enter an International Piano Competition. I was stuck with 'computers'. I generally lost interest for the piano after that. In fact, after my stepfather Dan died, I gave up playing all together. When we moved into an apartment in Kitchener, my baby grand piano had to go. -- I didn't even own a piano... for the next 12 years!
It was only after my Mom died that I bought my little Kawai digital piano (which I call Sparky). This was mostly for my son. After all, at the time, my son was about the age (8) that I was when I started to play piano.
When we went to the piano store to pick out Sparky, the store owners (Chris and Norm) asked who was the pianist, and looked at James (my son). No, of course I was. Funny thing, though... it had been so long since I had last played the piano that I honestly did not know if I even still could! I played a piece that I had performed by memory many times since I was 12 years old. (I played it very badly). 'Sparky' joined our home.
Though at the time, we bought Sparky mainly for James to learn on, I did, of course, sit down and slowly get the 'rust' from my waaaay out of shape fingers!
Now though, however, in my 50s and working for the last couple of years as an Uber driver, I had become morbidly obese, and very alcoholic. I had driven away my wife and son. I was alone. I decided to end it all. I bought a large bottle of rum. I filled a bath. I heated the bathroom with the electric space heater. I decided I would put on my favorite music. At the end of one last bottle or rum, I was going to drop the electric space heater into the tub.
It was my choice of music that may have saved my life that day. I wanted to end my life after listening to my favorite piano work. I have TWO favorites... the Chopin e-minor piano concerto, and the Grieg a-minor concerto. I won the Canadian National Music competition at age 14 playing the Grieg concerto. I had also meticulously prepared (but never got to perform) the Chopin concerto (which I absolutely LOVE playing still).
For that night, I picked the Grieg concerto to listen to as my final piece. I believe that was fate. It so happened that as I was in the warm bath, drinking my rum and listening to the Grieg, I remembered that I had just ordered (and received) a Music Minus One score of the Grieg concerto. For those unfamiliar, Music Minus One is a piano score of a concerto, and includes an MP3 recording of the orchestra parts (minus the soloist). This allows a soloist to practice a concerto as if playing with an orchestra. In my drunken stupor I realized that I had not yet tried to play the concerto with it. I knew I couldn't end it right then... not without reliving my performing the Grieg concerto (as a 14 year old).
Well I guess my drunken raving had alerted someone in the building, because the police entered my apartment while I was playing Grieg. Despite my protests, they removed me from my apartment (non violently) and placed me in restraints on a stretcher. While I was being wheeled into the ambulance, my right thumb was caught in the stretcher mechanism and was severed at the tip, just above the knuckle. Pictured here is my injury a couple of weeks after reattachment (Pictures are graphic, NSFW, NSFL): the entire end of my right thumb, and the thumbnail had been severed.
After the doctors reattached the end of my thumb, I was eventually released from the psych ward of the Kitchener hospital. Back home again, alone, and writhing in pain, I was faced with a decision. A choice. Did I want to end it like this? Alcoholic, estranged from my son, nobody hearing (or caring to hear) me play the piano? Then again, why should I not just try again, and do it properly this time... maybe I should listen to the Chopin concerto this time!
The prognosis for my thumb was unclear... doctors did not know how much (if any) function or feeling I would ever regain. For that matter, they thought that the end of my thumb might actually die and fall off, shortening my right thumb by more than an inch! Would I ever play the piano again? Are any thoughts of trying once more to play professionally completely moot now?
This brings me to the "International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs", held every year in Paris France. Unlike every other major competition I was familiar with at the time, this competition had no age limit. Even I at age 54 (at the time), could enter!
So, that night in February 2020, I decided I would enter the competition. I thought, "why not? What better way to recover from an amputation injury to my right thumb than to enter an International piano competition! Is it crazy? Oh yes. Is it possible? Maybe? This became my mission. My goal. Win the gold medal at the "International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs" in Paris in January 2021. My entry was approved, my cheque cashed, and my competition program was submitted.
Starting late last February, I gave up all alcohol. I began a daily practice routine. I knew that I had to quiet and train my mind before anything else. Believe me, I was in no shape then to even go to the grocery store for myself, or even to share an elevator with a neighbor -- remember, these were still the EARLY days of Covid-19, and the lockdowns had not yet even hit Ontario.
If you get a chance to watch any old videos of Vladimir Horowitz performing at Carnegie Hall, here's one thing to note: watch how his mind/his focus never wanders from the note currently being played. No thinking about dinner after the concert, or how his neighbor pissed him off. From a piano perspective, I knew that THAT singular mind is what I had to cultivate... both to train for the piano competition and to literally turn my life around.
I started with the Holosync Meditation program. This is a commercial audio program that helps to synchronize your brain hemispheres through binaural beats. (This is not a product plug, honest, just a recounting of the steps I took). This one-hour audio meditation program is in two half hour segments: an 'induction' and a 'quieting' (my terms, not theirs). Here's how I used it: With my headphones on, I did/do a 'walking' meditation for the first half hour. I use as my mantra "My left eye is relaxed". (NOTE: I say 'mantra' like I am some sort of a guru... I assure you, I am not).
As I walk, I quiet my mind. Here's how. As I step with my left foot, (in my head) I say "my LEFT eye..." (and 'feel' or 'focus' on my left eye). As I step with my right foot, I say "is RELAXED" (and 'feel' the left eye and cheek go 'limp'). I found that anytime my mind wandered it corresponded to movement from my left eye. Funny enough, for me anyway, when I focused on 'stilling' and 'relaxing' my left eye, all other extra thoughts stopped... dead. (Bear in mind that since I am left-handed it may be different than for righties... I don't know -- I am not a guru).
At the beginning this was very difficult for me. My mind wandered often (many times in a panic). Each time I became aware of it, I would simply 'let go' of the thought and return to "my LEFT eye... is RELAXED".
Remember - I started doing this EVERY day. While very difficult for me at the start, there's no question that, like the piano, it gets MUCH easier over time -- IF you do it EVERY day.
For the second half hour (the second part of the Holosync meditation), I do my 'sitting' meditation. This is done in front of the computer screen in my studio. I purposely set my desktop background to plain white, with yellow diagonal lines I added, pointing from the corners of the screen, toward the centre. At the centre, I have placed a red dot. During my 'sitting' meditation, I keep my attention on the centre dot, and continue 'My left eye ...is relaxed" mantra.
At the same time, I run a subliminal 'suggestion program' that was available for free off the Internet (see My Links to get it for free). As well as using many of their DEFAULT subliminal suggestions, I made SURE to include my own suggestions such as:
* 'I am happy without alcohol'
* 'I have more fun when I am sober'
* 'I prefer eating one meal a day'
* 'I am the greatest living pianist'
* 'I play the piano note perfectly'
I also included many other things that I wanted/needed to work on.
These subliminal messages flash quickly on my computer screen behind the 'dot' that I am watching during my 'sitting meditation'.
I did (and still do) this EVERY day (Saturdays off).
*** One of my favorite 'parables' is from BoJack Horseman... 'The Gorilla and the Horse'. In summary; the 'Horse' is grazing beside a mountain when he notices that EVERYDAY the 'Gorilla' ran at full speed, going from the bottom to the top of the mountain very quickly. One day that horse decided to try it, and so began his 'full speed' run up the mountain. Out of breath very near the start, and, after barely making it to the top he wheezed: "Gorilla, how in the world can YOU run so quickly and seemingly effortlessly up this mountain everyday?" The gorilla replied "Every day you do it is easier than the day before, but doing it EVERY day... that's the hard part!" This is so true, both for learning the piano and for meditation (and any number of other pursuits). ***
To develop my piano technique (or redevelop it), I employed an old 'secret' from my past. This 'secret' that I am about to let you in on has been used by ALL of the great pianists of the past, including the great master Franz Liszt himself. (Pay attention all you aspiring pianists out there!): Hanon Finger Exercises. That's it. Your piano teacher may have assigned some of these exercises as the 'drudgery' you have to get through before you start playing the piano. Don't think about it like that. Instead, realize that you will MASTER your piano technique if you perfect and regularly perform these exercises. Think of them as calisthenics. (There are many other exercises I realize, but the Hanon exercises are what I used as a kid... besides, if they were good enough for Franz Liszt, they're good enough for me). I found that if done 'properly', these exercises would also further focus and quiet my mind: I don't just 'play through' these exercises while my mind wanders. Remember, I am still in my 'meditation' mode. As I play the Hanon exercises, I continue my "My left eye is relaxed" mantra. Any time my mind wanders still, I continue my mantra, and relax my left eye while continuing the Hanon exercises. Funny thing, I thought I would play 'worse' if I didn't 'think' about upcoming passages, fingering or anything else. The actual truth was that when I kept my attention on keeping my left eye quiet and relaxed, my fingers now 'took over' and played far better. Any 'problems' I had now, were real issues (of technique, fingering etc.) which I would then fix immediately. For you aspiring pianists, DON'T let yourself play a wrong note. That's right. In practice, if you do, IMMEDIATELY SLOW DOWN (way, way down sometimes), and mindfully play and 'feel' the correct note. This is to establish the correct 'pathway' for your subconscious mind. Only (and slowly) increase speed when you can continue to play 'perfectly'. Your subconscious mind gets confused pathway imprints if one time to play it correctly and the next time you mess up the notes or fingering. If I play a 'wrong' note (NOT caused by a wandering mind), I will STOP, and slowly replay the passage perfectly four, five or even ten times (if necessary) before continuing on. I know, at the beginning you will stop and repeat a lot, but like 'the Gorilla', EVERY day you do it will be easier than the day before... IF you do it EVERYDAY.
**Hanon exercises are free on the Internet HERE.
As well as giving up alcohol in February, and my one-hour Holosync/subliminal meditation program, I also started eating only one meal per day (OMAD) in October (which I still do).
I also, of course, began a piano practice program. Believe me, preparing for an International Piano Competition is every bit as rigorous as training for an Olympics. Since my thumb was a long-time healing (and even now is far from healed), much of my piano practice had to be done mentally. I picked a great 'model' for the piece I wanted to learn. That is, with my headphones on, I sat on the couch and played along (in my mind) with the model. For Bach, I chose Glen Gould. For my Chopin Ballade, I chose Horowitz. When I could do it perfectly in my mind, I again used my headphones and actually played the notes together with the recording (Sparky was OFF, so, no sound-- one great advantage of using a digital piano as a practice tool. When I can play the notes perfectly with my model with Sparky's sound OFF, I turn the sound ON, but low... about a 3 or 4 on the dial. I practice again with the model and my headphones on. This time, however, since the sound is on, (but low) I really only hear them when they don't match my model. When I can reliably play the piece this way is when I begin playing the piece without headphones or model, and at proper volume levels. This is where I give my own interpretation, or 'take' on the piece.
I prepared (I thought) a knockout program, including among others, 'La Campanella' by Franz Liszt. (Side note: if you are an advanced pianist looking for a challenge, look to this piece. At the time I learned it, it was the hardest piece (for me) that I had ever played. (I'm working on a much, much harder piece now that makes La Campanella actually look easy by comparison. I will eventually play it for the blog, but NOT on Sparky -- I'm afraid there are too many notes for poor Sparky, and many end up dropping out. There's only one recording that has ever been made (that I know of). Josef Lhevinne (Franz Liszt's student) recorded it in the 1940s. It blows my mind every-single-time I hear him play it. That is my mental model. No, I'm not telling what it is until I'm ready to play it!
Thankfully, with all of these changes, my wife and son (eventually) came back. We are slowly working to heal all the relationships. This being 2021, the International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs has been cancelled for this year, and I did not compete in Paris in January. At this point, the competition has been indefinitely postponed.
In the meantime, my daily practice routine has become a beloved and needed part of my day. It returns balance to my life. It is my meditation.
That's why I now intend to share my 'meditations' with all who, like me, need it. I will try on most days to use the last hour of my piano session to broadcast LIVE, either on Reddit Sessions (starting at 2:15 p.m. EST) or at KevisStudio Facebook page. If my back is not up a longer sessions, (in addition to my right thumb, I have hip and back issues) I may alternately play ONE lullaby (along with some nighttime poetry) at 9 p.m. EST. Either way, I will announce where (or if) I will play for the day on KevisStudio Facebook page and at this blog (www.KevisStudio.com).
For you piano students (of any level), I will also share some of my preparation and techniques that help me. For all lovers of piano music, I will also play some of my favorite piano classics. I will also share with you a little of my ongoing story.
I will save a link to all of my live performances on the Home page of this blog, and to KevisStudio YouTube page.
Generally, then, my 'long' broadcasts will begin at 2:15 Eastern, and Kevi's Lullaby (short) would begin at 9 p.m.
My Original Competition* Program Selections:
Bach Prelude and Fugue in C#
Dohnanyi: Rhapsody in C+
Beethoven: Sonata Pathetique
Chopin: Premiere Ballade in G-
Liszt: La Campanella
If I decide to re-enter, (or rather, keep my entry active), I will probably change this program. (I will definitely use my current project -- the one with Josef Lhevinne as my model -- as my finale!
I have recently received notification that the competition has officially been rescheduled to May of 2022. I have not decided whether or not to enter. While having the competition as a goal was a very important step in my recovery, there is something else that has changed. My daily meditation routine now includes playing the 'world's most peaceful piano music' at the end of my daily piano sessions. In many ways the music has become for me something very deep and spiritual even. In that regard I am not sure that it is something that I wish to 'compete' with (like a foot race). Since I AM entered, and the competition is almost a year away, I have time to make my decision.
My story is definitely ongoing. In fact, I regard this as the very start of a brand new chapter, and I really don't know what comes next. I love it.
Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you will share my Piano Meditations with me.
Here's the old '78 record that I recorded (on my 13th birthday) for the movie 'Apples of Gold'. 'Abba Fantasia' is the piece I wrote when I was 12.
Here is one of the cassette tapes that I used to sell while on small concert tours through the U.S. and Far East. I recorded this in the early 90's... Oh to have that much hair again LOL!
I love to respond to your questions or comments!
While I am not set up to respond to comments DURING my LIVE sessions, I do try to read and answer all. I will also take requests. I won't be able to fit requests in until a later session. I simply ask that any requests be of similar music style, and not subject to copyright protection.
Email me at KevisStudio@gmail.com, or fill in the form below