This week, I’m pleased to welcome Gabriele Baldocci to the blog! Read on to get a sneak peek into the life of a concert pianist. I love how his descriptions of practice and performance sound so similar to our journeys as competitive ballroom dancers.
Hi, I’m Gabriele Baldocci. As a concert pianist, I have been performing for over thirty years now all around the world. From Seoul to Berlin, from London to New York, I have been fortunate enough to share the stage with some of the greatest musicians in the world, such as my friend Martha Argerich. In between my concerts, I also manage the London Piano Centre, the Milton Keynes Music Academy and teach at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, so life can be quite hectic! Here’s a glimpse into what it’s like being a traveling musician.
Being a classical concert pianist is a wild ride. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and enough drama to rival a soap opera. But, through it all, the music is always there to guide me, to lift me up, and to remind me why I do what I do.
First, there’s the practice. Oh, the practice. It’s like a never-ending cycle of perfectionism. Every day, I sit down at the piano and play the repertoire of my current season over and over again. Bar by bar, passage by passage, piece by piece, trying to make everything sound just a little bit better than they did the day before. It’s monotonous, it’s tedious, and it’s soul-crushing at times. But, when I finally find that perfect phrase, with that ideal quality of sound, it’s like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds. It’s the reason I keep going.
The Thrill of Performance
Then, there’s the performance. The stage is where I come alive. I’m in my element, and I’m at my best. But, it’s not always smooth sailing. There are the nerves, the butterflies in my stomach, and the occasional slip. But, when I look out into the audience and see the looks of awe and inspiration on their faces, it’s all worth it.
Yes, that’s right: being on stage is an incredible experience. It is an opportunity to share your passion with others; it is a way to connect and create something beautiful together. Every time there is the same old amazing feeling of excitement—the anticipation of connecting with audience members through music and creating something unique together. It never gets old!
The Challenge of Traveling
But, the real adventure is the traveling. I’ve been to some of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I’ve played in some of the most prestigious concert halls. But, let me tell you, it’s not all glamorous. There are the long flights, the jet lag, and the endless hotel rooms. But, when I’m sitting at the piano in a foreign country, playing to a room full of people who may not speak my language, but are united by the music, it’s a feeling like no other.
Teaching is the cherry on top of the concert pianist sundae. It’s where I get to share my passion and knowledge with the next generation of musicians. It’s where I get to see the spark in a student’s eye when they finally understand a difficult concept, and the joy on their face when they play a piece they’ve been working on for weeks the way they wanted. It’s where I get to be a part of shaping the future of music. It’s where I can prove myself worthy of the promise I made: trying to be the teacher I always wanted to have. Which is why – let’s be real – it’s also where I get to relive all my own piano student nightmares through the eyes of my students. From dealing with difficult parents to handling stage fright, I’ve seen it all. But, it’s all worth it when a student achieves something they never thought possible and the look of pride on their face.
When juggling so many responsibilities, it’s important to find balance between work and other aspects of life. As an artist myself, I understand how easy it is to become too consumed by your craft—it’s important not only for your own well-being but also for your artistry that you take time for yourself and your loved ones outside of work. For me personally, this means carving out time during my travels where possible (with my trusty piano!) or making sure that when I am back home in London after long stints away from family that quality time is spent together; a long weekend exploring a new place, playing video games or watching a movie together during those rare moments off from teaching, practising or running my music schools!
The Journey Goes On
Being a classical concert pianist is not for the faint of heart. But, it’s a journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. From sharing my passion with audiences around the world to connecting with fellow musicians backstage as we prepare for our performances together; these experiences will stay with me forever! The music is my compass, and it’s led me on some of the most incredible adventures of my life. So, if you ever see a wild-eyed pianist running through the streets, chasing after the perfect musical phrase, don’t be afraid to say hello. I’m just on another adventure.