Career Advice

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I need an honest response. I'm 18 and I've been studying piano for a year and a half. My teacher studied at the Moscow Conservatory of music in Russia under Erina Smorodinova who was a student of Emil Gilels and he is incredibly talented. My first piece was a 3-movement sonatina by Clementi and I learned that in 2 months from scratch (No prior knowledge of piano or music at ALL) then I learned prelude No. 15 (Raindrop) by Chopin and mastered that within 3 months. I play both well and with much emotion. I am currently learning the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sharp minor and I already can play two pages within a couple days. My question is what are the odds that I could make it as a concert pianist and under what circumstances. Keep in mind that my teacher continually drills exercises and other technical practices at the piano so that I am not simply attempting pieces that I have no hope of playing.
 - John

Dear John,

I started the piano when I was eight years old, and believe it or not, that was pretty old compared to my Juilliard classmates! Learning to play the piano is not unlike learning a foreign language - it's a lot easier when you are young. And similar to learning a language, its a skill that takes years upon years to master. By the time I was 18, I had spent 10 years practicing 2 - 6 hours every day, and I still had a lot to learn (and I still do!); when I went to college, I practiced even more.

The honest answer: it's very unlikely that you'll "make it" as a concert pianist, just as it is unlikely that Juilliard graduates will make it professionally as concert pianists. It's possible, but very, very unlikely. You have to love it enough to withstand setback after setback. That said, pianists have so many different roles in society other than that of a "concert pianist," roles that are important and deserve your consideration: music teacher, educational outreach performer, accompanist, composer, arranger, music series director, artistic director, researcher, choir conductor and organizer, music therapist, chamber musician, administrator, or my favorite: amateur. It's those pianists that are a part of society - pianists who aren't estranged on a stage - who really have the opportunity to make a profound difference in an individual's life in a personal way. If you really do love music, you will find a way to share it with people, regardless of your ability.

Best wishes!

- Greg