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CURIOSITY IN LIFE AND MUSIC


"The recognition, pursuit, and desire to explore novel, complex, uncertain, and ambiguous events" is as good a definition of "curiosity" as I can think of. It's typically been associated with a more fulfilling life and better ability to monitor and emotionally balance oneself and others, especially as one ages.


Judging by all the questions I asked during the rebuilding process (pictured here) of The Duchess two years ago, and the number of piano experts I exhausted by them, I might not need too much encouragement in that direction!


However, curiosity has also been associated in older folks with a decline in that very curiosity due to the perception that time left in life is limited!


But the mind and spirit can ossify -- if we let them.


Too, that can happen if we have not carefully cultivated the quality of or value in curiosity. We become less open to new experiences, less alert to options that might work better for us.


I credit my mom for instilling curiosity in me at an early age. She affirmed at every turn that curiosity was a very valuable thing to own and operate.


Of course, early on in her 20s and before marriage at age 25 she was -- a teacher! After living a trad-wife role once she married, in mid life after her divorce she went back to college and eventually became - a high school counselor!


Good teachers have ways of sparking and rewarding curiosity, and good parents as well. Perhaps that is not ubiquitous in young parents because most work very hard and it's exhausting to also face interminable questions from one's child or children. It's tough to have one's attention split in a million directions.


For the past year I've been thinking about, unearthing, then studying ways to deal with anxiety when performing. I've been studying by both reading and asking performing musicians about what specific strategies they find effective to reduce anxiety when playing the piano?


I'm lately thinking that adopting a curious attitude toward that very experience itself will help, such as by asking myself how do I feel in my body at the time, then reframing the feeling as "excitement and anticipation" rather than "nerves".


Another strategy I learned in Noa Kageyama's fabulous and effective Psych Essentials class, is to focus my mind and ear to audiate the quality and tone of the score's very first notes and chords that I want to produce, but it's the element of initially and consciously being curious that I think I have been missing!


I think before I begin to play for some friends or any piece coach, I'll try taking a few moments to become distinctly curious to listen intently and hear if what I produce when I play actually matches what I hear in my inner ear.


My friend Joe recently came up with yet another strategy to reduce his nerves when he took the opportunity to play a grand piano in the first-class lounge of his airline at a layover in the Dubai airport. He thought of something a piano shop owner said to him when Joe accompanied me there one day to shop for The Duchess: "Don't worry - no one wants to listen to classical music these days." What a horrible thing to say or think! But true or not, it helped Joe to deliver a 45-minute concert without problem.


It reminded me of another of Noa's strategies he teaches in the class, that is, to imagine that your audience is deaf. Ask yourself "how will I then communicate the music to this audience?" Not only can that question help reduce one's nerves, but it encourages experimentation and stretching one's wings a bit when practicing at home, though one may not want to go too far off the ranch during a concert for thousands!


Isabella Rossellini, the talented, industrious, whipsmart, and gorgeous movie star and model daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, was interviewed in March by a New York Time's writer about Rossellini's second and third acts in life. She is now 71. Rossellini says that when age discrimination resulted in her modelling job at Lancomb drying up at age 40, "I just followed my curiosity diligently: getting up early and finding time to really study or to write. So I was diligent, like the good girl that we are taught to be. But, you know, I’m curious about all the questions you are asking me. Because I have a feeling it has to do with women. We are asking, How do we find our voice? And I feel in your question, the question to me, but it’s a question that you ask yourself: How do I fully realize myself?"


After retirement in 2020, and also suffering age discrimination that makes seniors' voices less important in the world, I started asking myself similar questions: "how do I find and/or re-start my voice?" and "how do I continue to realize myself?"


Re-learning to play the piano and taking up writing and publishing poetry, then subjecting my good friends to barrages of first drafts and hoping for feedback while I started to hone my efforts in online poetry crafting classes and piano lessons, are two important ways I am answering those questions.


I continue asking myself how can I find additional ways to express myself creatively? How I can improve my pianism? Lately the latter question to myself resulted in the gobsmacking idea that a piece coach would work better for me at the present compared to seeking yet another traditional once-weekly piano teacher.


And of course, I'm always asking myself what do I want to learn next? and what questions are burning a hole in my brain that I can go find answers to?


I'm certain that curiosity leading to action will keep me perking along, hopefully for a long time to come!



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