At one point in my life my sister and I had studied classical piano in New York City for over a decade, from an age where all we could do was swing our legs from the piano bench and barely grasp a chord with our chubby little hands to restless college students armed with enough repertoire to take auditions in three musical cities – Paris, Salzburg and Perugia.
It was time to go to the cradle of classical music and learn the European way.
What did that mean?
- Getting a visa
- Getting approval from our colleges
- Requesting an audition date in three conservatories
- Preparing repertoire
- Budgeting for a year abroad for two
- Taking a crash course in German, we had four years of high school French and we figured Italian wouldn’t be as difficult as German.
- Not knowing where we would be accepted
And that was before we even left the ground.
We were accepted in Salzburg and we fell in love with this beautiful city. So, now we had to:
- Learn German schnell! We actually learned more Salzburg dialect than German so to this day I sound like a Bavarian local when I speak.
- Find a place to live
- Register for classes at the Mozarteum
- Try not to get lost
- Try not to eat too much sacher torte
- Take piano lessons in German
What I really learned
The decision to do this was purely impulsive and reckless. Both of our colleges had no formal abroad program with this reknown music school. We had no idea how many credits we would be awarded when we returned.
But our plan was strategic and well thought out in the same way our musical education was. There were foundation studies, etudes, sonatas, scales and music theory that slowly over time created an inner universe of music. Complex pieces of music we learned and memorized at a young age became part of our growing muscle memory to be coaxed out as we matured.
That is how I memorized thirty two Beethoven Sonatas. Before I knew how to drive.
Music lessons are not about acquiring the skill to play an instrument, or to sing. Music lessons are journeys into a realm of expression that your soul can hear. This is why the decision to pick up and go to the birthplace of Mozart and classical music was indisputable in our minds. To live and play music in this rarified city where people consider music their cultural heritage was a tremendous part of the experience.
Schubert, Schumann on Skype?
I found this intriguing YouTube video on Pamela Slim’s blog in a post she wrote about how to break a big goal into smaller steps. It reminded me of how my sister and I reached our goal of studying music in Europe. OK, time to confess – as I was watching how the teacher went over step by step how to teach webcam music lessons with Skype, I was disappointed. Not once did he actually play the keys of the piano, only his keyboard.
Here is another video I found on Arianne Segerman’s blog about someone who loves to play with fire and bang on metal. She is in love with creating beautiful things by hand that can be worn as jewelry. Another soul that craves the connection of the immediate. Try Skyping the touch of silver on your skin.
There are some things in life that do not travel well. Souffles, jello, Baked Alaska, ice sculpture, and yes, piano lessons are things best experienced no more than an octave away.
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