Finding Success as a Pianist

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
i am a 16 year old pianist and is now a grade 5 student.i started when i am 12.During the holiday before the year 2009.i suddenly become very ambitious and i wanted to become a concert pianist.But the problem is there seems to be too many discouraging post and also encouraging post about being a concert pianist.most professionals says that one must start at a very very early age to become concert pianist.now i am so scared because even i if i am a quick learner i still cannot make it to grade 8 or deploma before entering a music university.those who started early get to play excellently before 12 and then they still have the many years to fix every single weakness.i am starting to feel the stress now because i put a lot of hope onto piano career and i surely don't want a very very dissapointing days after all those hardwork like a begger on a street playing piano and too poor to buy anything and die.i want to have a very normal and also very sustainable live doing a job that i love.The main reason i become so obssesed about piano is when i feel sad i get to play sad piece and when angry i play crazy technical piece just like all those actors in movies.and i think piano is something that is classy(high class , all those tuxedo stuff).i would like to be a person of high class somedays later.my mum said i am going to college near my place to study whatever while attending piano lesson at my area to continue until diploma.and then i apply for music college again after my college years. and of course i manage to play plenty of hard piece which my teacher don't know i can play them.i am better then all student that is in my grade(those students play piano just for fun.but i take piano more seriously then them).i play the kholer sonatinas book and i have to learn those piece.took others 2 weeks or more to play 1 movmment but took me only 1 week to play 1 movement(the most is 2 weeks if the piece is hard).i also learn the exam piece before my teacher even ask me to try it.my teacher was shocked when i played it out straight away.and i plan to migrate out of my hot country to a colder country.so dig into my essay and correct any wrong opinion and give advise and anything you want to say to me.i am just a very obssesed and discouraged pianist.i am starting to feel more head ache now to think about my future and everything about piano and about time i have left.your advise is greatly needed by me.
 -Daniel C.H.L.

Dear Daniel,

Yikes, let's take a deep breath! I'm not going to have any answers for you; nor will anyone else. Nobody can predict who will have a huge, successful, world-traveling piano career and who won't. If you're playing the piano purely because you hope for such a career, I recommend you find something else to do, because you're playing the lottery with your career!

You sound somewhat conflicted... Piano and high class society? Playing the piano can be a classy occupation (though it certainly doesn't need to be), but it is very unlikely to provide you with the finances to join high class society. Obsessed and discouraged? Obsession is an absolute must for any thriving piano player, but if you are truly, truly obsessed, it is unlikely you will ever find yourself discouraged for very long. A rather wonderful perk of obsession: it makes you oblivious to any setbacks or impossibilities. (Of course, if you're of the obsessive temperament, I recommend you direct your obsession down healthy avenues.)

I also sense somewhat of a competitive vibe from you. Does it really matter how fast your high school classmates learn their music? As you say, use the piano as an outlet for your emotions, not as means to bolster your self-worth.

If, however, (and I've said this many times before -- please see the "Ask Greg: Career" archives) you simply want to play the piano for a living, go for it. Society has many, many different needs for pianists that you could fill. Most piano careers will not make you incredible wealth, so as I said above, joining the upper echelon of society is unlikely, but they can be extraordinarily satisfying.

Just make sure that you chose a career playing the piano for the right reasons; if so, things will work out.

- Greg