So I’m sitting in what’s laughably called the Serenity Garden at a London psychiatric hospital that shall remain nameless, and one of the patients approaches me quietly (we are after all on the ‘shhh don’t upset them’ ward) and asks we what I do. Not what I’m locked up for (psych hospital etiquette forbids it), what I do. She’s cute in an anorexic, self-harming kind of way, so I tell her that I play the piano. ‘What, like in a band?’ she asks, remarkably unslurred by meds. ‘No’, I say. ‘Just me. I’m a concert pianist. Classical shit’ I clarify.
‘Wow! Seriously? Man, that’s so cool!’ all wide (wild?) eyed mania. ‘So I guess you started at like 4 years old and practiced 8 hours a day like forever, and went to like Julliard or somewhere huh? I bet you look awesome in your tux when you play!’.
She happens to be American.
Our conversation was cut short right about then when she stubbed her cigarette out on her arm and was carted away by a brace of orderlies. Nurses are peculiar like that.
But I was thinking about that exchange recently (it happened about 3 years ago) and it struck me how the job title ‘concert pianist’ rather like ‘gynaecologist’ or ‘surfer’ inevitably conjures up very specific images and histories in people
And I think it’s appropriate, important even, to dispel the myth of the autistic/fragile/shrouded-in-his-own-genius/tux-wearing/idiot savant as pianist. Also, I want this site to be a place for those of us who love music, want to know more about it, and don’t want to be smothered by the inherent stuffiness that surrounds the world of classical music.
excerpt from James’ profile on his websiteSHARE